iPhone 4 owner satisfaction stays high, survey finds

A survey of 213 new iPhone 4 owners finds very high satisfaction rates with Apple's flagship phone, though not as high as model 3GS owners. Somewhere between one-third and one-fourth of iPhone 4 owners say they've experienced antenna reception issues.

Antenna guru: 'Get a bumper and learn the Vulcan iPhone Pinch'

Some of the data from ChangeWave Research is confusing. One question asked owners to describe how much of a problem occurred with reception, when the phone was held "in a certain way." For 64% of iPhone 4 users, there was "no problem." So one-third of owners experienced some degree of problem, with just 7% saying it was a "very big problem."

But when given a list of issues and asked to pick up to three that they disliked most, only 24% chose "antenna issue." The top two complaints, as in past surveys of other models were: having to use AT&T as the mobile carrier (27%) and the coverage, speed, or quality of the AT&T network (24%). Almost as high were "excessive dropped calls," picked by 23%, which may or may not be related to the antenna attenuation issue.

ChangeWave's online survey was done in late July, following Apple's highly publicized press conference called to address some complaints about the new external antenna's impact on cellular reception. (See the iPhone 4 Antenna-gate timeline.)

About 35% of respondents said they were "very satisfied" with Apple's offer of a free rubber-like bumper to wrap around the phone, covering the antenna; another 38% were "somewhat satisfied." Six percent were "very dissatisfied" and 12% were "somewhat dissatisfied with the offer. The remainder selected "don't know." (See Apple's free iPhone 4 case program: What you need to know.)

Nevertheless, 34% say iPhone 4 exceeds their expectations, and another 50% say it meets expectations. Just 13% expressed some level of disappointment. The percentage returning the phone for some problem or other is 8%, almost identical with that of the 3GS model, at 7%.

Overall, owners of the newest iPhone are enthusiastic: 72% are "very satisfied," 21% "somewhat satisfied," and 6% are somewhat or very unsatisfied.

That's down compared to the euphoria created by the 3GS. ChangeWave found a year ago that 82% of 3GS owners were very satisfied, and 17% somewhat satisfied, a total of 99% of respondents.

The iPhone 4 numbers are still well above all other rival smartphones on the market, as ChangeWave reported a few weeks ago. (See iPhone rules smartphone roost.)

The best liked features on iPhone 4 (respondents could choose up to three from a list) are: screen resolution, picked by 49%; 5-megapixel camera (31%); touchscreen interface (30%); ease of use (25%); and multi-tasking (22%), which is new to this model.

Last of nine listed features was Apple's heavily touted Facetime video chat, which lets iPhone users create a live, two-way video link with another iPhone 4 user over a Wi-Fi link. Facetime was picked by 15% of respondents as a best feature. ChangeWave Vice President of Research Paul Carton points out that the survey sample is almost entirely adult users: If more teens and younger people in general were included, that percentage would likely increase, he says.

The most disliked features, as indicated above, generally didn't include the phone itself, but AT&T as the sole carrier or its network. But 15% of respondents chose "battery life too short." Carton points out that number is actually a big improvement, because just over 40% of 3GS owners last year tagged this as a problem.

Despite the antenna furor, just 5.2% of iPhone 4 users say they've experienced dropped calls. That's actually less than the 6.3% of 3GS owners who report this problem, according to ChangeWave.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwBlog RSS feed

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